This week, we had our first ever farm Instagram takeover with the lovely Sarah Pappas of Fresh Cut Detroit. Sarah took us on a two-day flower adventure, telling the story of her Detroit based farm, introducing us to her crew, and sharing her philosophy on sustainable farming practices. Sometimes it can be easy to forget all of the blood, sweat, tears and love that go into each beautiful flower you see in our buckets, so we can’t thank Sarah enough for using our platform to share her knowledge and spread some flower love (and during American Flowers month, nonetheless!)
Though we learned a ton during the takeover, we still had more questions, so continue reading to get to know even more about Sarah & Fresh Cut Detroit!
Hi Sarah! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions so our followers can get to know a little more about your farm after this week’s takeover! To start off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how Fresh Cut Detroit came to be?
Hi Mayesh, thanks for letting me take over your IG feed! I’m Sarah Pappas, the farmer & founder of Fresh Cut Detroit, a flower farm in the city of Detroit. I’ve been doing farming & gardening work in some shape or form for over ten years. I’m a hardworking, fun loving, compassionate, ambitious farmer. I value a give-and-take relationship with my land, my crops, and my crew.
I’ve had a lucky, interesting life that’s given me a world of experiences in farming & gardening, education & empowerment, community living & loving. Fresh Cut Detroit Flower Farm is the product of these experiences plus the vibrant, pulsing moment of time & space that is the city of Detroit’s urban agriculture movement. I wouldn’t trade this space & time for any other in the world.
Tell us a little bit about your operation – where are you located and how big is your farm? A little virtual tour!
Fresh Cut is ¼ acre on a corner at the edge of the historic residential neighborhood of Woodbridge. We’re a couple miles northwest of downtown Detroit, a short walk from the campus of Wayne State University. You can see our hoophouse from a block away, and as you approach you start to see the bright colors of the annuals in the west beds. Our farm dog Ruti will bark at you as you walk along the fence, under the big elm tree that keeps our house cool, and to the east beds where our earliest self-seeded annuals & biennials are planted. The east beds cozy up to a wild woodlot area where we forage crops like motherwort, dame’s rocket, and wild sweet peas.
Do you have a team helping you out at Fresh Cut Detroit?
I have a lot of people helping at the farm, thank goddess. This year, on our crew we have an assistant manager, a design/delivery person, 2 farm crew members, and 2 youth crew members. Detroit has a historic, thriving Urban Agriculture community and my skilled labor is hired from this pool of local people. My crew members have completed agricultural training programs through Earthworks Urban Farm, Detroit Black Community Food Security Farm, and Keep Growing Detroit, and volunteered at the Student Organic Farm at MSU.
While growing flowers and owning a small farm sounds like a fairy tale job to many, I’m sure not everyday is as glamorous as it appears! It’s hard work, but probably very rewarding as well. What gets you out of bed every morning and inspires you to keep going everyday?
You’re right, it’s absolutely not glamorous every minute, but a cute apron and big earrings can do a lot for this farmer’s outlook on the world.
Early in the morning, I love the special feeling of reviewing the field before a harvest. I feel proud of the beautiful array in front of me that I’ve helped bring into the world. What inspires me to keep going is my crew and my community. I’ve created something that other people care about, and that gets them paid and builds on their skills & interests. It’s a demanding, but such a compelling and rewarding life to be a flower farmer & small business owner.
How many flower varieties are you growing at any given moment?
About 200 varieties are growing at any given moment on the farm… we like to keep it diverse! We’re playing more and more each season with complimentary co-plantings to maximize our bed space – millet & sunflower, peony & centaurea, motherwort & monarda.
Here’s a toughie, but you knew it was coming! What is your favorite flower to grow? How about to design with, if different?
I’ve been a true blue #1 fan of snapdragons since I was a little kid. I remember my grandma showing me how they open their mouths to ROAR when you pinch the blossoms… plus, they’re great for planting multiple successions to keep them blooming all season long. They’re my favorite to grow, in that they’re totally indispensable.
As for my favorite flower for designing, since I make so many bouquets in-hand, having a good branchy base to start with is paramount. These days, having a nice strong Salvia ‘Cardonna’ to start with helps a bouquet come together quickly.
Tell us a little bit about your weekly bouquet service… it seems like a great way for you to get to flex your creative design muscles and get to play with all of your gorgeous blooms!
The weekly customers are the heart & soul of the business. Their support through 20 weeks of bouquet subscriptions gave us the foundation to establish a weekly harvest, design, & sales cycle even when we were starting out. Some have been with me for years, and their flower knowledge & design eye is off the charts. From each week’s harvest, we play, and each bouquet gets a flavor of its own – hot mamas, big sprawling clouds of grasses, cool delicate posies… It’s so fun!
When we interviewed Michael over at Summer Dreams Farm, he told us a little bit about the flower farming scene in Michigan. It really seems to be a great community with lots of local growers popping up! Can you tell us a little more about what’s going on in the world of flowers in Michigan?
Absolutely. The Michigan Cut Flower Growers Coop has just begun, and it’s already cooking. The market runs every Wednesday morning out of Passionflower Sue’s studio in Ann Arbor. Cut flowers are a powerful, lucrative agricultural product and I’d love to see them continue to grow in prominence in the state of Michigan’s agricultural profile. In the near future, I see even more growth in partnerships between rural & urban growers.
Supporting local growers and educating people about what you have to offer is so important, and these days it seems like awareness is really spreading! Tell us a little bit about your experience and/or involvement with the American flower farming community.
My path to the American flower farming community ran its way through diverse organic vegetable production farms. These farms are run out of passion, love, and a commitment to cultivating beauty & diversity that serves the innate strength & interdependent web of which we are a part.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions about your farm! One final question – is there any advice you would go back and tell yourself when you first started Fresh Cut Detroit, or that you would give to farmers just starting out?
Always value your time! Pay yourself. If you’re in a business or farming arrangement where you’re being paid less than ideal, identify how you’re building equity & savings for your future self to cash in on when you’re ready to move forward. Invest in yourself through professional development, and take care of your body with good health, sleep, nutrition, and relaxation.
Professional photos by Emily Berger